The Seattle Reign FC and Portland Thorns don't have decades-deep history of grainy film footage of games played at the Kingdome. The two sides and the NWSL as a whole are still very new and forging their own legacy of what modern day women's soccer looks like. Their history may not be as deep as the men's game, but the ferocity sure is.
This weekend brings the Seattle versus Portland soccer rivalry to an incredible, higher stage. Seattle Reign FC host the Portland Thorns on Saturday at Memorial Stadium. The Seattle Sounders host the Portland Timbers on Sunday at CenturyLink Field. #BeatPortland is important in more ways than one, and we here at Ride of the Valkyries want to show that it matters for Reign FC just as much as it does for the Sounders.
Entering Saturday's match, the record between the two sides sits at 6 wins, 6 losses, and 3 draws. All of their encounters have been in the regular season. In the inaugural season of the NWSL, Portland won all the meetings. Portland had their stars while Seattle was still trying to establish an identity with each other. Then came Laura Harvey's legendary overhaul of the roster ahead of the 2014 season and they were able to claim two wins, while dropping one more. Those two wins for Seattle though were incredibly memorable, with the first being a match-winning goal in the 89th minute by Kim Little that silenced 14,128 Portland Thorns fans and yours truly won a wagered beer out of it.
Reign FC fans could argue that the second win against Portland was more memorable than Little's mic drop on the road, as they obliterated Portland at Memorial Stadium, dropping a nickel on the Thorns.
In the 2015 season, Seattle took the series against Portland with their 3-0 win at Memorial Stadium being the highest attended game (6,303) in Reign FC's history to date.
2016 saw the sides each take a win and draw one and that brings us to the present, where the Reign and Thorns drew the first meeting of the season, 2-2. Seattle won the second meeting 2-0 powered by Megan Rapinoe's brace.
Saturday's match is the final encounter of the regular season, and if Seattle wants to keep their playoff hopes alive, they have to win this one. You always want to win against your rivals, everyone knows this. They also are motivated by the horrific collapse last weekend at Sky Blue FC, where they were on the business end of losing 5-4. Their motivation has to be matched by those that love their Seattle soccer teams. Whenever the Portland Thorns come into town, the Rose City Riveters follow strong. They sit behind Portland's bench and certainly establish their presence visually and audibly.
It was in the first installment of the Reign/Thorns that we first saw this scrappy box-to-box midfielder seemingly run all over the place. You may have heard of her, it was Jess Fishlock. Despite the Reign losing that match 2-1, Fishlock's performance won NWSL Player of the Week honors, the first one for the Reign. Needless to say, you have to be a special talent to be recognized like that in a losing effort and unquestionably Jess Fishlock is a special talent.
If civic pride especially at the expense of the team down south is important, then if there's ever a time to come out and show strength, support, and unity for all Seattle soccer teams, it is this weekend. Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium is just as important as Sunday night at CenturyLink Field. This is my call to the good people of Seattle to help set the tone on Saturday so the Reign FC strike the first blow.
Rivalry matches typically aren’t pretty. They’re physical. They’re gritty. They’re intense. The Reign v. Thorns rivalry is no exception, and the one thing I always associate with these battles is heartbreak. Luckily, Seattle hasn’t been on the receiving end of that heartbreak too often—especially at Memorial Stadium. I could take 1,000 words to describe some of my favorite memories from Seattle’s wins against Portland, but I’ll keep it to just one moment.
Megan Rapinoe battled back from a torn ACL in 2016, rushing her recovery to make the squad for the Summer Olympics. She left Rio without an Olympic medal, and could have easily taken the rest of the season off to recuperate and avoid re-injuring her knee. Instead, she returned to the Reign to help the team push for the playoffs, and her first match back just happened to be against Portland. Pinoe only needed 12 minutes to make an impact. After subbing on to close the game out, she blasted this one-touch shot into the far-post netting, sealing a 3-1 victory and sending the crowd into a frenzy. The first thing Rapinoe did? Point to the Reign FC crest on her jersey. The second? Run to the bench to celebrate with her teammates.
Rapinoe loves beating Portland. A lot. Fans saw that fire earlier this season when she stole the ball from Thorns defender Emily Sonnett, poked it into the net, then yelled as she ran passed Sonnett before once again tugging the Reign FC badge on her chest.
Rapinoe might not be on the field Saturday, but you know she’ll be soaking in every moment from the stands—channeling her hatred through the 11 Seattle Reign players who step onto the field. Let’s do the same alongside her.
Every game matters. Every point matters. Every goal matters. They always matter, but to take a match-up to the next level there need to be heroes, there need to be villains, there needs to be history.
Back in April 2013, when the Reign were still an abstract concept to most and had yet to make a public appearance in Seattle, they visited Portland in week 2 for the Thorns’ home debut. This was Portland’s coming out party, but it also provided the first opportunity for a few traveling Seattle fans to witness their own mostly unknown squad in person. There was an expectation that this should be a fierce rivalry due to the existing dramatic history of the Sounders/Timbers rivalry and the lack of any other NWSL teams within 1500 miles, but for two brand new teams in a new league in only its eighth day of existence, there were a lot of unanswered questions about how that would evolve from expectation to reality.
Traveling fans didn’t even have any gear to wear defiantly into Jeld-Wen Field, since the Reign team store was only open for home games and Seattle started their existence with a preseason trip to Japan and three-match road trip.
Missing for the Reign were US National Team stars Hope Solo, Megan Rapinoe, and Amy Rodriguez, and the 16,000+ Portland fans in attendance were more than up for some aggressive banter about that and their own vast constellation of stars on display. Meanwhile, the few Seattle fans scattered around the stadium spent as much time trying to figure out who was on their team as they did cheering on the club.
The game began as you might expect, with Portland playing aggressively, picking up two cautions in the first 11 minutes. The Thorns scored a goal on either side of halftime, and the cacophony of Portland cheers grew ever louder as they continued pressing the outmatched Reign defense and several more chances fizzed just wide. But in the 74th minute, Jess Fishlock pounced on a loose ball at the top of the Portland box and hammered it home for Seattle’s second-ever goal. A hush fell over the crowd, save for a few loud cheers of joy sprinkled throughout.
Fishlock turned to the gathered Thorns faithful, pounded her hand on the Reign crest, and defiantly pumped her fist. A Seattle hero was born and a Portland villain was christened, and the whole league now knew the ferocity of the Welsh Dragon. If you ask Thorns fans about their rivalry with Seattle, the first name always spoken is that of Jess Fishlock; more often than not in tones of begrudging respect for her passion and intensity in that first game.
Seattle lost all four of their matches that season against the eventual NWSL Championship winners, and some questioned whether there could really be much of a rivalry if one side always won. However, that first meeting and first Seattle goal established that there would be something special about these games. It gave us our first heroes and villains, and provided a clear objective for Seattle’s rebuild the following year - Beat Portland.
Kim Little accomplished that with another late goal to silence an audacious Portland crowd in May 2014, and Reign FC have dominated the series ever since, much to the chagrin of the throngs of traveling Thorns faithful. It’s taken five years, but after starting the series 0-4-0, Seattle is on the cusp of taking the series lead and claiming the crown as the true Queens of Cascadia. It’s time to once again #BeatPortland.
Points matter. With five games left in the regular season the Reign need all the points they can get. Sitting in 5th place is the worst position in the league. If you end there you can taste the playoffs, yet were just a little short. Likely one win could have upset the apple cart and got you in the playoffs. And no three points matter more right now than the three points the Reign are looking to take away against Portland — both to show they can beat a playoff level team and to help them become a team that is in a playoff seat heading into the last month of the season. The Reign need fan support. They need people there cheering and showing them just how much this matters to the city and their fans. Portland is going to bring their supporters. Seattle needs to show them whose city they are going to.
What do you say, Seattle supporters — will we see you at Memorial to jumpstart #BeatPortland weekend? Help us get pumped for this match by sharing your favorite Reign/Thorns rivalry moment in the comments below. ⬇